Colic. The word alone is enough to frighten any horse owner. Horses colic every year, and some of these episodes are bad enough to require hospitalization and even surgery. Whether dealing with an impaction colic or a gas colic, quick diagnosis and action is key to a successful recovery. But wouldn’t it be better if you could avoid colic entirely?
There are many ways you can decrease your horse’s chances of ever suffering a colic episode. Here are a few easy ways that you can get started.
Feed Plenty of Forage
Your horse’s diet should be mainly based on forage. Feeding horses large quantities of grain and smaller quantities of hay can increase the risk of an impaction colic. This situation also increases your horse’s chance of developing stomach ulcers, which can cause colic episodes.
Make sure that your horse receives plenty of forage every day. Ideally, he should have some time to eat hay before he’s given his grain, since hay helps to buffer the stomach and keeps his digestive system active.
Maximize Your Horse’s Time Outside
Simply providing your horse with more time in turnout is a great way to minimize your horse’s colic risk. Being able to move around helps to keep your horse’s digestive system active. Horses in turnout often have access to grass, which allows them to gradually take in food in a healthy, natural fashion.
Establish a Feeding Schedule
Be sure to establish a feeding schedule for your horse – and then stick to it. Varying your horse’s feed times by an hour or so in either direction is usually fine, but realize that horses have sensitive digestive systems which are easily disturbed. Do your best to ensure that your horse is fed on a reliable schedule.
Slow Your Horse’s Food Intake
In the wild, horses graze almost continuously. They take in food slowly, keeping it moving through their digestive systems. Because of this, horses aren’t built to eat one or two large meals a day. And if your horse is one who gulps his feed and practically inhales his hay, he’s taking in large quantities of food even more quickly. This action alone can increase your horse’s colic risk.
There are a number of ways you can slow your horse’s food intake. First, try to divide his meals into smaller meals that are fed more frequently. If you can’t be around to administer these feedings, consider investing in an automatic horse feeder to do the job for you.
Next, place your horse’s hay in a small hole hay net or other slow feeder. These feeders require horses to take smaller bites of hay, slowing their intake and extending the amount of time that it takes your horse to eat his hay.
If your horse gulps his grain, putting large rocks in his feed bucket can keep him from getting large mouthfuls of food. There are also feeders which are specially designed to slow your horse’s grain intake.
Manage Internal Parasites
Internal parasites, like worms, can upset your horse’s digestive system and even result in colic episodes. Speak with your vet to determine the best way to manage your horse’s internal parasites.
These colic prevention steps are pretty easy to implement, but if you’re boarding your horse you will need a facility which can prioritize these practices. Be sure to check out our list of boarding facilities to find options in your area to help keep your horse healthy.
Article by Paige Cerulli, a lifelong equestrian who lives in Massachusetts with two Thoroughbred mares and a pony. Paige is a professional writer who specializes in the equine and pet industries. You can learn more about her on her website, PaigeCerulli.com.